What's New for 2010
The 2010 Jeep Compass gets an available five-speed manual transmission for its 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. Also, active front head restraints are standard across the lineup, automatic climate control is available on Limited models, and remote start can be specified with the continuously variable transmission (CVT).
We come up with a list of Pros for each vehicle we review, and the 2010 Jeep Compass made this task a challenge. Eventually we settled on its discount price and optional flip-down tailgate speakers -- these speakers are legitimately interesting. But that's frankly the best we could do. There's no two ways about it: The Compass is simply not a competitive vehicle in its class.
Like its boxier Patriot sibling, the Compass is based on the Dodge Caliber hatchback. The ride is hardly carlike, though, as the Compass tends to crash over bumps like a truck. Don't expect a payoff in the handling department; the Compass is one of the least entertaining vehicles to drive in its class. It's also saddled with noisy and sluggish powertrains that will discourage you from exploring their full high-rpm potential.
The situation doesn't get any better inside. Despite some improvements in materials quality last year, the Compass is still well behind the curve in terms of plastics and overall interior design. There's just nothing here to make buyers feel as if they got a special vehicle for their hard-earned money. And while the Compass' height and ground clearance are on par with those of small crossover SUVs (hence its official SUV classification), its hauling ability is more like the Caliber's -- the Compass has the least maximum cargo space of any vehicle in its class.
Drive the Compass back to back with its competitors and you'll likely notice these shortcomings yourself. Superior alternatives include the Honda CR-V, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester and Toyota RAV4, as well as hatchbacks and small wagons like the Mazda 3 and Toyota Matrix. If you're on a tight budget, even the nondescript Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are much better choices.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2010 Jeep Compass is a five-passenger compact SUV available in Sport and Limited trim levels. Standard equipment on the Compass Sport includes 17-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, foglamps, air-conditioning, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. The "E" package adds full power accessories, cruise control, keyless entry, driver-seat height adjustment, reclining rear seats, a removable flashlight, passenger assist handles and stain-repellent upholstery. All of the "E" stuff is included with the Limited, which also adds 18-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, leather upholstery, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, satellite radio and an in-dash six-CD changer (the latter is optional on the Sport).
There are a number of packages available on both trims. The Security and Cargo Convenience Group adds front side airbags, heated cloth seats (Sport), a cargo cover, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, Bluetooth (Limited) and, when the CVT is specified, remote start. The Sun and Sound Group adds six upgraded speakers, flip-down tailgate speakers, a subwoofer, a sunroof and, on the Sport, satellite radio. The Media Center option adds a hard-drive-based navigation system, digital music storage and a USB audio jack. Automatic climate control can also be added to the Limited.
Powertrains and Performance
Front-wheel drive is standard on the Jeep Compass, while a four-wheel-drive system is optional. It operates in front-wheel-drive mode in normal situations and automatically applies power to the rear wheels when needed. It can also be locked in 4WD mode, with up to 60 percent of the engine's torque sent to the rear wheels for better off-road traction.
Every Compass comes standard with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine capable of 172 horsepower and 165 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, and a CVT is optional. With this engine and the CVT, a four-wheel-drive Compass we tested went from zero to 60 mph in a lazy 10.6 seconds -- and droned loudly while doing it. Fuel economy with the automatic and 4WD is 21 mpg city/24 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. The manual or front-wheel drive improves these numbers by a few mpg.
Optional on the front-wheel-drive Compass Sport only is a less powerful but more-fuel-efficient 2.0-liter four-cylinder. It makes 158 hp and 141 lb-ft of torque and offers the same transmission choices as the 2.4-liter four. Fuel economy is 23/29/25 mpg with the manual and 23/27/25 with the CVT.
Standard safety features include stability control with a rollover sensor, full-length side curtain airbags and traction control. Front-seat side airbags are optional. In government crash tests, the 2010 Jeep Compass received four out of five stars for frontal-impact crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. When equipped with front side airbags, the Compass received the best rating of "Good" in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's side-impact crash test, but a Compass without the side airbags got the second-worst "Marginal" rating.
Interior Design and Special Features
The Compass has sported a slightly nicer interior design since '09, but this is still an unmistakably budget-minded cabin. The switchgear feels flimsy, the plastics are hard and rough and the steering wheel probably will not feel comfortable in your hands. The dashboard looks crude, too, as if aesthetics were an afterthought. Seats are somewhat less than comfortable, and the Compass' fixed rear head restraints and wide rear roof pillars obstruct rear visibility.
The Compass offers some useful storage spaces, including an open bin on the passenger side of the dash. The rear seatbacks fold flat, and fold-flat capability for the front passenger seatback (standard on Limited, optional on Sport) allows you to carry longer items inside the vehicle. The cargo area itself is small, though, measuring just 22.7 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 53.6 cubic feet with the rear seatbacks folded -- less than that of every other small SUV on the market.
Even with the larger 2.4-liter engine, the 2010 Jeep Compass feels sluggish during merging and passing maneuvers, especially when equipped with 4WD and the power-sapping CVT. It's also quite noisy, and the 2.0-liter engine is slower and noisier still. Compared to other small SUVs, the Compass doesn't ride well on bumpy roads, and its less-than-rigid structure tends to flex excessively over potholes and such. Furthermore, notable wind and road noise finds its way into the cabin at speed. Handling is likewise unimpressive.